Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mulch from the Animals

I just came in from a couple hours spent outside between rain showers this afternoon. It was chilly! I wore four layers of long sleeves, a wool cap and two pairs of socks. Brrrr. I did some raking of leaves in the backyard and investigated the progress of the winter garden, but primarily I worked on mulching various beds around the place. Our little menagerie might be here to give us meat and eggs, but they also give us lots of extra goodness in the form of their poo! One of my weekly chores is to rake out the chicken coop and henhouse and move the droppings and soiled straw to wherever we are using them, and then fill the coop with fresh straw for the next week.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
The freshly cleaned coop.

I've mentioned before that we're adding in more vegetable growing space in front of the house--this is where I've been putting the chicken straw for the last month or so, with a little bit siphoned off for the compost heap. There are still a few gaps as you can see, but one more cleaning and I'll have it all filled in. I'll try and get another thick layer on in the next couple months, then we'll just let it sit and do its thing for the rest of the winter. Chicken poo composts "hot" and so can't be used to mulch vegetables because it can burn them. It needs to break down first, which our long wet Portland winter will help it to do. In the spring, we'll till it all in, and plant potatoes here. Our front yard faces due south, so it should be prime growing space! This soil around the edge was dry and compacted before we tilled it up this fall, and I'm eager to see what it looks like in four or five months!

The bunnies in the garage live in suspended cages, so all of their droppings and urine are collected in straw spread on the ground below them. I raked a big batch of this up today and used it to mulch the garlic. Rabbit poo has a different chemical composition than chicken poo, and is safe to apply straight to the garden without composting first.

 This mulch, spread on top of a layer of shredded newspaper, will keep the garlic bed nice and warm until the cloves are ready to sprout.

I can't tell you how glad we are for all that our animals give us, even before we've gotten meat or eggs from them! Their litter is revolutionizing our garden and our compost pile, the chickens have created exponentially better tilth of the soil under the fruit trees than was there a few months ago, and of course both our furry and feathered friends are endlessly entertaining. Everything they provide us with gets used to sustain the earth or ourselves or both. If you're pondering a small backyard menagerie of your own, I definitely recommend it!

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